A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Froi of the Exiles -- this second installment in Melina Marchetta's Lumatere Chronicles -- features issues as mature as those in Finnikin of the Rock. There are depictions of violence and sexuality that may not be appropriate for younger readers, but mature teens -- even those who don't normally read the fantasy genre -- will find this complex, character-driven story chock full of intrigue and valuable lessons about hope, family, destiny, and what it means to feel truly at home. That said, there's definitely violence -- people are raped, executed, tortured, injured, and taken by sickness -- and more sex than in Finnikin.
What's the story?
FROI OF THE EXILES picks up three years after Isaboe and Finnikin broke the spell of Lumatere. Froi, that foul-mouthed boy who ends up in Queen Isaboe's debt, has turned into Lumatere's most promising -- if impetuous -- young warrior. When he's sent on a secret mission to kill the tyrannical leader of neighboring Charyn, Froi knows he's up for the challenge. But his simple plan becomes much more complicated when he encounters the mysterious, mentally unstable princess of Charyn, Quintana. Like Lumatere, Charyn is faced with its own curse, and Froi begins to realize that the land speaks to him in a way Lumatere never has. Like his mentor Finnikin before him, Froi must decide whether to follow his head or his heart, even though the consequences might have unintended consequences for everyone he loves.
Is it any good?
Melina Marchetta is an exceptional writer, but it has still been surprising to see a specialist of contemporary teen fiction transition so seamlessly to the fantasy genre. Despite their medieval setting, the Lumatere Chronicles explore the same themes that Marchetta so beautifull conveys in books like Jellicoe Road and Saving Francesca. As the author herself has acknowledged, Froi and Quintana have the same trajectory as Jonah and Taylor in Jellicoe Road -- they're emotionally broken and in need of the other to help heal.
Like Finnikin and Isaboe, Froi and Quintana feel an almost otherworldly pull to be with each other, but their story is even sadder -- and more frought with obstacles, if that's possible -- than the queen and her king's. Once again, the book follows several points of view, and some of the secondary characters are just as compelling as Froi, especially Phaedra, the estranged Charynite wife of Lucian of the Monts; and Lady Beatriss, who finally realizes that she wants Captain Trevanion to know what really happened to her during the decade they spent apart. Gorgeously written and thoroughly detailed, this is one of the best fantasy epics in all of young-adult literature. Even those who eschew the genre should give it a try.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the various points of view in Froi of the Exiles. Whose perspective did Marchetta leave out? Why do you think she chose these specific characters to follow? Who do you hope she'll highlight in the final installment?
How does the intense relationship beween Froi and Quintana compare to the story of Finnikin and Isaboe? Which couple's love story do you find more compelling?
How does Froi, like Finnikin before him, deal with issues of family, faith, and falling in love with someone he doesn't know completely? Which twist and revelation surprised you the most?
Discuss the book's politcal context. How does the lack of open borders and honest communication lead to the story's final, fateful decision? How do you think peace can be brokered when so much is being kept secret?
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